16 Jun 2019

Desert Locust – Billasimer

Whilst birding a deep woodland valley near Billasimer I flushed a Desert Locust Schistocerca gregariasituation off the main track and onto a dry stone wall, where it was well camouflaged. The Desert Locust can form plagues and threaten agricultural production in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, something it has done for centuries. The desert locust is potentially the most dangerous of the locust pests because of the ability of it to form swarms and to fly rapidly across great distances. There has not, however, been any large swarms I know of in recent years.


14 Jun 2019

Crested Honey Buzzard in Alheefah Park - Tanoumah

We went to look for Eurasian Griffon Vultures at the lookout point in Alheefah Park and were rewarded with a female Crested Honey Buzzard that flew along the escarpment before disappearing. The species has only been seen five times previously in the summer in the Kingdom but this record being mid-may could be a late spring bird. Last summer we saw an adult female flying just overhead in the Bani Saad area and another adult female at some distance at the bottom of Wadi Wadj in Taif. An adult Male was at Dhahran 5th & 6th May to 30 July 2011 with two second calendar year birds 5 July 2014 in Dhahran. A second calendar year was at Tanoumah 5 July 2013. These new records mean that birds have been seen along most of the Asir mountain range in summer and show a few birds may regularly summer there. As most birds seem to be females there is a chance birds could be breeding in the area?
Crested Honey Buzzard
Crested Honey Buzzard
Crested Honey Buzzard
Crested Honey Buzzard
Crested Honey Buzzard
Crested Honey Buzzard


12 Jun 2019

Woodland birding - Billasimer

The tall woodland around Billasimer looked good for birdwatching and as neither Phil or I had birded the area we spent both our available mornings at the location. There are plenty of good looking sites and a few nice tracks that may hold nightjars (Plain and Montane), for which we will look next time in the area. We found a couple of very deep valleys with Philby’s Partidge calling regularly but the birds stayed hidden in the woods and did not fly as normal, so we failed to even see them. Arabian Babblers were common along the edge of the valley and Red-breasted Wheatear were seen on the way into the location. Other birds seen and photographed were Little Rock Thrush, Yemen Thrush and Abyssinian White-eye. Brown Woodland Warbler was common and plenty of Dusky Turtle Doves were seen with a couple of Arabian Magpie as calling and flying up and down the valley.
Abyssinian White-eye
Abyssinian White-eye
Arabian Babbler
Arabian Babbler
Arabian Babbler
Arabian Babbler
Little Rock Thrush
Little Rock Thrush
Yemen Thrush
Yemen Thrush

10 Jun 2019

Diederick Cuckoo in Alheefah Park - Tanoumah

On arrival at Alheefah Park I head a Diederik Cuckoo calling and after some searching, we saw the bird in the top of a tall tree. Unfortunately, it flew almost immediately but landed again in a better-positioned tree for photography. This is normally a very difficult species to get good photos off, so the ones below were very pleasing. The bird stayed calling in the same location for ten to fifteen minutes before we left it in peace. The Diderick Cuckoo is a summer visitor to southwest Saudi Arabia where it parasitizes Rüppell's weaver. They were previously regarded as vagrants to the area, but recently birds have been seen near Tendaha dam 5 July 2010, Abha area 20 July 2010, As Sudah 5 July 2013, Wadi Jaw June 2015, Taif area July 2015, Al Mehfar Park area of Tanoumah June 2016, Quaraish June 2018 and An Namas June 2018. Now I know the call well I seem to see them every trip to the Asir Mountains in summer, so they are presumably an uncommon summer breeder.
Diederik Cuckoo

Diederik Cuckoo

Diederik Cuckoo

Diederik Cuckoo



8 Jun 2019

Snake-tailed Fringe-toed Lizard - Quraish

Whilst birding recently in the Tanoumah area I came across a Snake-tailed Fringe-toed Lizard Acanthodactylus opheodurus down a tree filled wadi. The lizards were very active even during the hottest part of the day and where always found near small low-lying plants with hard sandy soil. It is superficially similar to its larger congener Acanthodactylus boskianus, and was described officially in 1980. As its name suggests, this species has a particularly long tail and, in common with other Acanthodactylus species, the toes are fringed with scales adapted for running over loose sand. Like other lacertids, the body is long and cylindrical, and the legs are well developed, with the animal having a basic body colour of grey, with seven dark stripes running down the back and sides and a tail tinged red in immatures. They live in a range of arid habitats, including plains with relatively hard sand cover and low hills covered by dense bushes. It is a diurnal lizard and lives in burrows excavated out of hard sand where it remains concealed for all but a few hours of the day. Their burrows not only act as a shelter from predators but also provide refuge from extreme temperatures. The snake-tailed fringe-toed lizard is currently known from the Arabian Peninsula and several other countries in the Middle East, including Jordan, Kuwait and Iraq.
Snake-tailed Fringe-toed Lizard - Acanthodactylus opheodurus


6 Jun 2019

Arabian Magpie - Billasimer

The Arabian Magpie is the only truly endemic species in Saudi Arabia, meaning it is found in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and nowhere else in the world. It has a very restricted range (An Namas to Billasimer) and very low number of birds and should probably be classified as Critically Endangered on Red Data list rather than its current Endangered status. We went to the southwest mountains in the hope of locating birds as now the species is breeding or feeding newly fledged young so is easier to find. We saw ten different birds at various locations and got some amazing views of a couple of them. Trying to photograph the species is difficult, as they are nervous and stay in valleys with steep sides, moving up the hillside quickly when disturbed. This trip we were lucky to see two birds close to the roadside and as we were in the car the birds were not afraid. One came down and fed on a roadside verge allowing some good photos to be taken. We returned the next day and had a similar experience allowing even better photos as the light was better. Surprisingly, although the birds called a few times they remained mainly silent. Normally they call loudly to each other regularly.
Arabian Magpie

Arabian Magpie

Arabian Magpie

Arabian Magpie

Arabian Magpie

4 Jun 2019

Springtime - Quraish

May in the Asir is great for birding as most if not all the African breeding species have returned and additional passage migrants can be seen as well as the resident highland birds. We saw a few passage birds including an Olive-tree Warbler, Common Whitethroat, Red-backed Shrike, Turkestan Shrike, Common Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and Whinchat. African breeders included African Paradise Flycatcher, Violet-backed Starling, Gambaga Flycatcher and African Pipit. Resident species photographed were Arabian Wheatear & Crested Lark. The weather at this time of year is very variable and goes from clear blue skys to thunderstorms in a short period of time. Luckily we made it back to the car just before the rain set in a few hours at lunchtime and where not able to get back out to early evening.
African Paradise Flycatcher - male
African Paradise Flycatcher - male
African Paradise Flycatcher - male
African Paradise Flycatcher - male
Arabian Wheatear
Arabian Wheatear
Arabian Wheatear
Arabian Wheatear
Arabian Wheatear
Arabian Wheatear 
Arabian Wheatear
Arabian Wheatear
Crested Lark
Crested Lark

2 Jun 2019

Two Spur-winged Lapwing - Jubail

Whilst biding the Jubail area I saw two Spur-winged Lapwings along the edge of a wet area. One of the birds appeared to be displaying to the other s there is again the chance they could breed locally. The species is still scarce in the Eastern Province although good numbers have been seen recently in the Haradh area including possible breeding. The species was regarded as a vagrant to the Eastern Province when I arrived eight years ago but is now a scarce visitor that can be seen at any time of year indicating birds may now be resident in small numbers in areas away from Haradh where it appears they are now definitely resident. The birds were not easy to get near with the below photo the best I could do in the poor light conditions.
Spur-winged Lapwing